The Care and Feed of Oracle User Groups - #JoelKallmanDay

On todays #JoelKallmanDay, my topic of choice is The Care and Feed of Oracle User Groups.

What is an Oracle User Group?

According to Wikipedia, it is:

An Oracle User Group is a private, generally non-profit or not-for-profit organization that provides support and education for users of Oracle Corporation technology, particularly for professional users, however student user groups have also been established.

The Oracle user groups often hold conferences, publish periodicals and survey members to provide real data back to Oracle.

According to myself it is:

Friends you hang out with to exchange Oracle knowledge and have fun.

(And that's hanging out both face to face as well as online.)

How did I end up with that user group definition?

Well, I started working with the Oracle database (SQL and PL/SQL) in 2000. For the first 10 years or so, I was only peripherally aware that somewhere there were some nebulous things called user groups, but didn't think much more about it - at most the thought "they don't have anything interesting for me" might cross my mind, if I thought about them at all.

Then I attended an Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco (I think it was 2008) where I stumbled on the ODTUG booth - Oracle Development Tools User Group (now renamed Oracle Developer & Technology User Group.) Wow, a user group dedicated to someone like me, and they had a yearly conference called Kscope dedicated to someone like me. So I attended Kscope in 2010 in Washington DC and thus started my journey into the user group communities.

You see, the thing I noticed at my first Kscope was that most people (including the well known people - speakers, Oracle product managers, gurus) were happy to chat (both about tech and non-tech), happy to help, happy to listen, happy to guide, and so on. It's the key point - it's all about the people. People are what makes a community - the tech is mainly the thing that we have as our common focus point.

I have been to every Kscope conference since my first in 2010. I immersed myself in the community spirit I found there, and the second thing I noticed was that even the experts were interested in hearing experiences from other people like me. So when I noticed that many developers were not really using analytic functions in SQL, I thought "What? But they need to know! You can't develop without analytic functions!", and went ahead and did my first presentation at Kscope in 2012 on practical use cases for analytic functions. I had progressed from being a listener in the community to also being a speaker.

Since then I've spoken at and attended many conferences in the US and in Europe. I've become involved in the organization of the Kscope conferences, first by reviewing abstracts, then leading a track, then content chair in the conference committee, and for Kscope24 I'm overseeing all content. Also I'm on the board of DOUG, my local user group in Denmark.

Now I'm happy to count the people I meet through my community involvement as friends. They're the people that stick together and create weekly Zoom socials to keep in touch during the pandemic (and carry on doing them afterwards.) They're friends that help with dealing with hospitals and doctors when a speaker falls ill in another country. They're people that care.

It's people like that that make the community spirit in user groups awesome. And (almost as a side effect) these people also are great for helping each other out on tech topics. No single person can know everything about Oracle, but pooling our knowledge in the communities can - if I ask a question on, say, use of V$OPEN_CURSOR, someone can give me useful input, and if I can't get an answer, I can be reasonably confident that it's an answer that very few in the world will be able to give.

I can only encourage you all to actively take part in your communities - user groups, meetups, and so on. It's so giving. I can honestly say I wouldn't be the person I am today without my communities and my community friends.

The care and feed of user groups.

User groups are living organisms. They don't just happen by themselves, they need people. People are the flesh and blood of user groups. Be an active part of your user group so it can live and become a happy place for you.

Do one or more of these:
  • Attend what your user group organizes - conferences, meetups, seminars, webinars, whatever.

  • Help in the organization - volunteer to assist, to organize, to be on the board.

  • Speak about your knowledge - it's certain that someone out there will benefit from something that you specifically know from your own experience.

If you don't know where to find your nearest Oracle User Group, follow @oracleugs on Twitter/X or take a look at Morgan's list of groups (it might not be 100% up-to-date, but any discrepancies or omissions you spot on the list, why not tell Morgan so it'll be maintained in the best community spirit.)

If you are a bit nervous about starting out on that last bullet point - public speaking - you can contact the MASH Program, who will happily put you in touch with a mentor to ease your first steps on your journey towards being a tech speaker.

Final point - this being a #JoelKallmanDay post, please take a moment to remember Joel Kallman - a personification of community spirit if there ever was one.

Follow #JoelKallmanDay hash tag on Twitter/X today for a lot of blog posts - technical and non-technical - in the best of community spirits initiated by Tim Hall.

Take care of your OUG and it will take care of you!